I don't own anything except Kevin Walker

Leona Colde also does not belong to me; she is the creation of arekuruu-inabikari-no-She

"As I write this, it's been nearly two years since the war... yet to me, it feels even longer in some ways, shorter in others. It seems but yesterday that Cagalli and I reunited at last, in the Libyan desert, and I joined the Archangel's crew; it seems so recent that I sacrificed my own life in a successful bid to stop ZAFT's superweapon, GENESIS, only to return to life hours later...

"Yet it also feels so long since I wove the deadly dance of combat, reveling as the blood sang in my veins, performing with ease maneuvers a normal human being would find impossible. So long since I was in battle... I don't enjoy killing -despite rumors to the contrary- yet every cell in my body aches for a fight. For that is why I was created, the reason my father created the single surviving member of the subspecies Homo Sapiens Modifica Extremis. I was born to fight, and deep down, the frustration builds...

"Of course, more has been happening than just me getting frustrated -and you can probably attribute that as much to politics as to biology. It's been a busy time since then; since Flay left the Dominion's crew, and subsequently disappeared; since the Justice was recovered by my people, only to be stolen by my clone, Jack Carter. My life has finally achieved the peace I sought for so long; the once-empty Onishi Mansion is full of life again, with its prodigal son returned, and Reverend Malchio's orphans in one wing. Not to mention Kira, Lacus, Murrue, and my old mentor Andy. Too bad Mu can't be here with us...

"Who am I? That's a tough question, but really the centerpiece of this book. I'm one of three survivors of the Ultimate Coordinator project -maybe four; we still haven't figured out just how much of that Cagalli was involved in- and, more importantly, I'm the survivor of ZAFT's dirty little secret.

"Some called us the seeds of legend; and maybe that's true. But the twelve of us were neither humanity's past nor its future. A dead-end evolutionary line, the relics of the dreams of madmen. We were brought in existence by Patrick Zala, on the advice of that madman Rau Le Creuset, using the scientific brilliance of Commander Jeffrey Harris, codename Oracle. We were to be ZAFT's ultimate weapons...

"We really were the seeds of legend, I guess; we twelve Abaddon, the Destroyers. But that all ended, five years ago, on that day of madness and pain. The day creation turned on creator, and ten of the best friends I ever had vanished in the fury of thermonuclear fusion, at my hand... even as I tried to join them in death.

"And now it has all led here. Today, I've returned to my birth name, and become Cagalli's bodyguard; with me is my old friend Athrun Zala, and ZAFT defector Leona Colde. Our job is to protect Orb's Chief Representative, and we do it well... well enough that there is, at last, time to tell the story of the war, of its beginnings and endings... of me.

"My name is Kevin Onishi, but once I was called something else. And one day, perhaps the world will once again know the name... Kevin Walker."

-Excerpt from the Introduction to The Tragic Spiral of War, by Baron Kevin Onishi

Every time I see that, it still gives me the chills, thought a young woman, in one of the Onishi Mansion's cavernous rooms; a gym, in this case.

She was in her early twenties, with light brown hair, jade green eyes, and a height somewhat greater than that of the person she watched; at least, as of the time when his legend was at its height. She was also very, very good at her job... and the fact that she was here at all was a sign of trust.

Leona Colde was well aware that the humanoid tiger who occupied the room's center, performing a complicated kata, trusted only a tiny handful of people with the knowledge of what he was; very few outside the massive edifice he called home realized that Baron Kevin Onishi was, among other things, a zoanthrope.

She still twitched every time she saw him transform from an affable, teenage nobleman into a powerfully-built, crimson-and-black-striped two-legged tiger. Before defecting to Orb and becoming one of the Chief Representative's bodyguards, she'd never knowingly met a zoanthrope; they were common neither in ZAFT nor her native France... as far as she knew, at any rate.

Leona wouldn't have been surprised to find she'd met some before without realizing it, though. Kevin rarely gave any indication of his power, preferring to rely on the slender sword that was the iconic weapon of Orb's Fencing Prince; his used Xin-yi kung fu only when he was unarmed, or particularly irritated with someone... though he made sure to keep in top form, both in human and zoanthrope shape.

Of course, he did occasionally lose track of time while he was at it, which was why Leona was here in the first place. "Excuse me, Kevin," she called, clearing her throat. "But have you noticed the time?"

The man-tiger froze in the middle of the Continuous Gem Bombardment, head cocked in an unmistakable gesture of surprise. "Oh; right."

He straightened, took a breath, and concentrated; an instant later, the fur, claws, and fangs were gone, replaced by a young man in black trousers and t-shirt, wearing formal boots and fingerless gloves (it hadn't taken Leona long to figure out why all his clothes were custom-tailored; normal fabric would be ripped apart by his transformations).

The youth had, like her, jade eyes; but his glowed as though with an inner light, and his sandy hair was actually longer than hers. Long ago, it had been a trademark of his... one he'd felt obliged to return to, when it became necessary to bury his wartime identity.

The hair itself framed a handsome face with an easy smile; only a few knew that the face was only half flesh, and marred by a wicked scar, usually hidden by makeup. Usually, that face bore a cheerful enough expression, if occasionally mocking.

Leona found it easy to forget that, behind that easy smile, there lay a soul of steel; behind the exterior of a cheerful, affable baron, lay the most ruthless man she'd ever met. She'd never seen his temper slip its leash, but she'd heard the stories... and knew, unlike most of the rest of the world, that the power within that lean, muscular body was potentially more than human.

All in all, she rather thought that Kevin was the most dangerous bastard she'd ever had the pleasure of knowing... even if he did get lost in thought from time to time, and forget what he was supposed to be doing.

Or maybe that was just an act; she'd never met him as his alter ego, a master of disguise, blades, and guns...

Now Kevin reached for a nearby towel, and dried his face. "I guess I lost track of time," he said cheerfully. "Still, gotta keep in shape; never know when us bodyguards might actually be needed. So, we still on schedule for departure?"

Leona checked her watch. "Barely," she informed him. "If you're through trying to overstress your body, Athrun's waiting for us, with Her Highness."

The baron shook his head, picking up a long coat. "You know she hates to be called that; as much as I hate being called a Baron." Donning the black coat, he then slipped on a set of elaborate, apparently-ornamental armor over the t-shirt. Glossy black, it was clearly useless against modern weaponry... or so it appeared.

The final touch -after a pair of more formal gloves, and a rapier buckled around his waist- was a silver mask, sitting on a nearby table. Kevin picked it up, looked at it carefully... and tucked it under his cloak.

Leona watched with interest. "Still hate that thing, don't you?"

"Yes," he admitted frankly, walking toward the door. "But not as much as I hate this shadow world of politics; I'm afraid I've never been one for the indirect approach, if it could be helped."

"That's right," she agreed dryly, joining him. "You prefer something a little more blunt, like a nuclear bomb... as a number of Blue Cosmos scum found out the hard way."

The two shared a look then, of remembered pain. They'd both lost their parents to Blue Cosmos attacks; and if Kevin spat upon his father's memory, he still missed his mother... and remembered that it was their deaths that had opened the way for ZAFT to get him in their clutches.

"Actually," the baron said, after a moment," I don't think I ever used nuclear weapons on them. I've only used two nukes in my life, both against ZAFT; the most I've ever used on one of those bastards was a positron cannon."

She chuckled. "And that's not as bad as a nuke? A nuke just incinerates you; an antimatter cannon converts your entire body to energy, down to the subatomic level. I'd call that worse."

"He deserved it," he protested. "Though I suppose it would've been more fitting to use it on the other guy; but I suppose a plasma rifle was good enough."

Leona shook her head. "I guess it's true what they say: the difference between boys and men is that men have slightly louder toys."

"They also say that a soldier's job is to kill people and break things."

By the time the pair reached the rebuilt Kaguya mass driver, two people were already waiting for them, near the shuttle they'd soon use to reach the PLANTs. "You're late," the taller of the two, a fellow with blue hair and emerald eyes, remarked.

"Sorry about that, Alex," Kevin apologized, not sounding very contrite. "Lost track of time, that's all."

Athrun Zala, alias Alex Dino, shook his head. "You know, Kevin, I sometimes wonder if you take this whole bodyguard thing seriously."

"Leave him alone, Alex," his female, blonde companion told him. "If anybody's entitled to a little slack, it's Kevin... though it is about time you got here," she added.

Kevin smiled, and hugged her. "I was just making sure I was still in shape; I'll try not to let it happen again, how's that?"

"It'll have to do," Cagalli Yula Athha said with a smile. "Now come on, we'd better get going. We do have a meeting to attend in the PLANTs, remember?"

"Yeah, I know..."

The four entered the shuttle, with Kevin heading directly for the cockpit; his companions weren't surprised to note that there was no one else there. "Don't you believe in flying with a copilot?" Leona remarked, then shook her head. "Never mind; I've asked you that a hundred times before, always with the same answer."

"Indeed," Kevin agreed. "Remember, Leona, I've been flying shuttles like this -well, of this general size- since I was fourteen; the day I need a copilot is the day I retire and take up sheep herding."

An uninformed observer would've thought that meant he'd only been flying for about two years; going by physical appearance, one would think the baron was only sixteen... but in actual fact, he was born on the same day as the Chief Representative, who was nineteen.

Such were the mysteries surrounding his genetic origins.

Athrun snorted. "Sheep herding? Yeah, right. I know you, Kevin; the first time one of your sheep irritated you, you'd shoot it and have it for lunch."

"Maybe not too far from the truth," Kevin conceded. "On the other hand, if I were still that quick to shoot things, there's a few politicians around here whose heads would be mounted on my wall... like Yuna Roma Seiran."

There was silence for several moments. Kevin Onishi's antipathy toward the Seiran family in general, and Yuna Roma specifically, was legendary. Nobody was quite sure what had started it -besides the traditional antipathy between their families- but it had gotten worse in recent years, for reasons that were quite comprehensible... for though Orb at large didn't quite know why, it was a well-known fact that he hated the Earth Alliance with a passion.

Which made him extremely hostile toward the Seiran family's notions of having a closer relationship between Orb and the Alliance.

"We're cleared for launch," Kevin said presently. "You three had better strap in. Don't want any of you hurt, eh, tovarisch?"

Cagalli nodded. "Right. See you after takeoff, Kevin." She gave him a quick kiss, before ducking back into the passenger compartment, and shooting a deadly glance at her bodyguards. "You didn't see that," she warned. "Got that?"

Leona chuckled. "Don't worry, your secret's safe with us."

Athrun shook his head. "Too bad those two can't just admit it to the world at large," he murmured. "I'm sure they'd be a lot more relaxed if they could."

Strapping into a seat, she frowned. "I admit that I've never quite understood why they can't," she said, careful to keep her voice low enough that Cagalli couldn't hear. "I mean, they're both Orb nobles, so why...?"

"Politics," he replied with a shrug. "I don't fully understand it either, but politics dictate everything they allow to show in public. So for now, they can only be Chief Representative and bodyguard to each other... a fact which, unfortunately, seems to be making Yuna Seiran a little too bold."

Leona looked at him sharply. "You don't think he'd try to make a move towards her, do you?"

Athrun sighed. "I don't know... but he might. I've gotten the impression, over the last couple years, that he and Kevin hate each other because they're rivals for Cagalli's affection..."

She shook her head. "If he tries that," she stated flatly, "he'll be signing his own death warrant. I haven't known Kevin as long as you have, but I do know that ZAFT calls his alter ego the 'Black Asp' for a reason; he wouldn't take that lying down."

"I know, but... the Black Asp isn't here right now." He frowned. "Kevin Walker would kill Yuna over that, and without a second thought. Onishi, though... I just don't know."

"We're launching, people," Kevin called from the cockpit. "Brace yourselves."

At a military base in the PLANT colony known as Armory One, violet-haired ZAFT redcoat Lunamaria Hawke and brown-haired mechanic Vino Dupre drove toward one of the massive mobile suit hangars in a jeep; not the safest journey, perhaps, given the number of mobile suits that were active just then.

"Been awhile since a base was this busy," Vino remarked, swerving to avoid a GINN Ceremonial Type. "That new ship's got everybody stirred up."

Lunamaria shrugged. "Need to stay alert, I guess; we've got a new warship and new-model mobile suits being rolled out tomorrow. Not to mention a visit from Orb's Chief Representative herself today."

The mechanic glanced at her. "Why would you care about some Earth politician visiting?"

She shrugged. "I'm not interested in her so much as her bodyguards. I hear one of them used to be with ZAFT; some woman named Leona Colde, a survivor of Spit Break and Jachin. Then there's Baron Onishi, who supposedly fought with the Four Ships Alliance, and was there when Kevin Walker sacrificed himself to destroy GENESIS."

Vino snorted. "The Black Asp, huh? I suppose Onishi may've known the guy, but who cares? The best thing Walker ever did was nuke himself; don't forget the number of ZAFT soldiers he killed before finally buying the farm."

Lunamaria shot him a look, but didn't say anything. That's right, she thought. He doesn't know what Walker was; but I do. I wish I could've met the guy my sister so admired... I wish she could've seen me now, too, she admitted to herself. I made it, Erica; I'm a top gun, just like you were, and even Meyrin's doing well for herself. I wish you could see us now...

But Erica Hawke, her older sister, had been listed as "Missing, presumed dead" for nearly six years now... and in the opinion of her surviving sisters, Erica would be listed as KIA if they'd just been able to find enough pieces. Nuclear weapons tended to be rather final...

It was early in C.E. 68 when Erica had been transferred out of the regular ZAFT academy directly into some kind of special project. Her family hadn't known exactly what it was at the time, but they'd gotten occasional letters that were so carefully-worded that it was clear it was some kind of top-secret special forces unit. For six months, letters had trickled in...

Erica had spoken a great deal about her eleven teammates, in particular their young commander. "His name's Kevin Walker," she'd written once, to Lunamaria and Meyrin. "A nice guy; only thirteen, but he acts much older. Smart, too. Even without his... call it special equipment... he runs the rest of us ragged. Even Charlie -that's Charlie Evans- can't keep up with him, and Charlie's over two meters tall. In training matches, Kevin can throw the rest of us around like we're made of feathers, but outside of simulated combat, he's actually pretty easygoing. As quick to smile as he is to throw you across the room, he rarely loses his temper... but if you ever see those glowing green eyes of his freeze, you know it's time to get out of the way. One time Mike Carnehan pulled a practical joke, and Kevin just glared at him with those icy eyes, and hit him so hard he flew ten meters across the room."

Back then, Luna and Meyrin had assumed Erica was exaggerating, telling tall tales... but now they both knew that their sister's commander was quite capable of knocking someone flying ten meters, even when he was thirteen.

The final letter had come in late July of the same year. "Basic training's finished," Erica had written, "and we're scheduled to start field exercises in a few weeks. In the meantime, we'll be getting leave sometime next month, so I'll be seeing you soon; and since Kevin and Rachel -that's Rachel Carver, Kevin's right-hand-girl- don't have any family, they're coming with me. You'll like them, I think; like I said before, you don't want to meet them -or any of us, for that matter- in a dark alley, but they're really good friends of mine."

The next time the Hawke family had heard anything about Erica, it was when ZAFT Command informed them that there'd been an accident of some kind, and the entire team had been wiped out.

That blow had been part of what inspired the surviving sisters to join ZAFT themselves; partly to finish the work their sister had been training for, and partly to learn exactly what had happened, what had gone wrong. And after years of digging, they'd learned the truth.

Erica Hawke, codename Scylla, had been part of something known only as the ABADDON Project, an effort by ZAFT to create the ultimate soldiers, cybernetically-augmented warriors who could fight and destroy anything that got in their path. Their base had been located at Lagrange point Two, on the far side of the moon, and in August of 68, something had gone drastically wrong: a thermonuclear fusion device, apparently intended as a self-destruct system, had been activated, killing everyone in the base. The incident was officially ruled as an accident, despite later, confused reports that a member of the team had done it deliberately, and as far as ZAFT was concerned, that was the end of the matter.

But it wasn't, as Luna had learned through further digging. Eventually, she'd been able to determine that a certain famous -or perhaps, infamous- member of the Four Ships Alliance, the man ZAFT had posthumously awarded the Order of the Nebula and given the nickname Black Asp -as much out of fear as respect- was in fact a survivor of the ABADDON program.

The rogue Archangel-class Mobile Assault Ship Dominion had, in fact, been commanded by the same Kevin Walker with whom Erica Hawke had once been so impressed.

And that was why Luna wanted to meet Baron Onishi. The Chief Representative would be too difficult for someone like her to approach, Leona Colde had defected only when Walker was killed, and the third bodyguard -Dino, or something like that- apparently had never had anything to do with the war at all.

No, it's the Baron I want to talk to, she thought. He must've at least seen Walker; the guy was a ship captain, so he couldn't have been exactly low-profile...

Elsewhere at the base, redcoat pilot Rey Za Burrel watched the hovercraft carrying his nation's leader, Supreme Council Chairman Gilbert Dullindal, touch down; but the blonde-haired, blue-eyed young soldier's thoughts were elsewhere for a moment.

When that shuttle had touched down, he'd felt something... something strange. He couldn't put a finger on it, but it felt almost like... like some kind of resonance. And, perhaps, the questing mind of an empath...

Rey shook himself, as Dullindal approached. As if there might be an empath in the area, he told himself. The only genuine empaths are zoanthropes -which aren't exactly common- and they only empath whose mind was trained well enough to taste his surroundings that way is dead...

"Mr. Chairman," an aide said, coming out behind the Chairman. "The Chief Representative's shuttle has arrived, sir, along with her bodyguards."

Dullindal nodded. "I see. Would one of those guards be Baron Onishi?"

"Yes, sir."

He rubbed his chin. "Good. The man may be strange, but he has a... moderating influence on Representative Athha. Besides, if anyone is likely to understand what we're doing here, it's him. His close ties to Morgenroete tell me he understands the philosophy of war better than most from that nation."

"And this, ladies and gentleman, is where we get off," Kevin remarked, shutting down the shuttle's power and unstrapping. "Time to go face the music."

Leona shook her head. "Did you wisecrack this much during the war?" she asked rhetorically. "And do you usually go that many hours in the pilot seat, without even any sleep?"

"In his day," Athrun said dryly, "Kevin could go about two weeks without it... though by the end of it, he'd be so jumped-up on stimulants he'd need to sleep for another week after that." He smiled. "He also had a short way with people who asked nosy questions or irritated him."

"So I've heard."

Before heading into the passenger compartment -and, from there, to the vehicle's hatch- Kevin reached under the pilot seat, and surreptitiously removed a pair of leather holsters, containing an ancient, well-worn pair of revolvers. To a collector, they were known as the Colt Single Action Army, chambered in .45 Long Colt. This pair, with blued steel, fifteen-centimeter barrels, and traditional wooden grips, were replacements for a set Kevin had carried years before.

And what he had once called them was a way of life.

After buckling the holsters on behind his back -and under his cloak- Kevin joined the others at the hatch. "Shall we?" he asked, fitting his mask into place.

"Yeah," Cagalli agreed; but her expression was one of distaste. "Do you have to wear that thing all the time? It gives me the creeps."

The baron regarded his girlfriend from behind opaque eyepieces. "I don't have much of a choice," he said quietly. "Not here, at least. You see, Chairman Dullindal knew me by sight, once upon a time; and given the circumstances of that acquaintance, I think it would be... unwise to remind him of it."

She nodded reluctantly. That was the first she'd heard of it, but there was only one "circumstance" he could be speaking of, when it came to ZAFT. The same circumstance that had, eventually, resulted in him being officially dead...

"Right," she said at last. "Let's go."

The four stepped out of the shuttle, and Athrun shook his head. "Couldn't you have worn a dress this once?" he remarked as they walked. "I mean, this is an important meeting..."

"The suit is fine," Cagalli said tiredly. "And you know how much I hate wearing a dress."

"Besides," Kevin commented, "I never was a big fan of that fashion style, myself." And, given who he was and what he meant to Orb's Chief Representative, his opinion carried a certain amount of weight.

He only had half his mind on the small-talk, though. There was something... I feel something, he thought, stretching mental antennae. There's someone here... someone I know. Can't be Dullindal; it's been over half a decade since I last saw him, and that was before I learned how to do this. So his presence isn't one I'd recognize... but then who is it?

Kevin didn't know the answer to that question, but he also didn't detect anything immediately inimical, so he relaxed and closed his mind again. Besides, if anything did go wrong, well... He might be known as Baron Onishi, Orb's Fencing Prince, today, but during the war, he'd been a gunfighter... the deadliest man alive.

Had he kept searching a moment longer, he might've noticed something odd about three nearby teenagers; since after all, Stellar Loussier, Auel Neider, and Sting Oakley weren't exactly typical tourists.

Of the three infiltrators sent to Armory One, only Auel Neider paid any attention to the VIP and her bodyguards; and he only did because he happened to glance in their direction in time to see the man with the silver mask... a mask virtually identical to the one their commander wore.

"It's him," he murmured to Sting Oakley. "The guy that's got Captain Roanoke worried enough to send regular troops here with us."

Sting glanced briefly at the quartet. At first glance, the masked fellow didn't seem too intimidating; to be sure, his height -between one-seventy and one-eighty centimeters, he estimated- and the obvious muscle power in his lean frame made him somebody you wouldn't want to throw a punch at... but he didn't look frightening enough to justify the full platoon of regular troops who were waiting in the wings.

"He's just one guy," Sting muttered. "Why be so scared of him?"

Auel shrugged. "Don't ask me; it's one of the Captain's hunches, I guess. But look again: the way he moves, he's been shot at before. He can probably hold his own one-on-one; and remember the rumors about his arm."

"Rumors," Sting snorted. "If that guy had a bionic arm, Captain Roanoke would've mentioned it." He glanced at the third member of their small group. "What do you think?"

Stellar Loussier, as usual, looked somewhat indifferent about the whole idea. "He's nothing," she said simply. "No threat."


Auel frowned. "Maybe... but I still don't like the looks of this. And why does he wear a mask like the Captain's?"

Sting shrugged indifferently. "Who cares? Maybe they've got the same tailor or something. Come on, we've got a job to do; let the regular troops worry about Mr. Fencer."

As he was speaking, a car with a pair of ZAFT soldiers in it drove up next to them. "We're your ride," one of them said. "Get in; we don't have much time."

Cagalli and her bodyguards rode an elevator down toward the inhabited regions of Armory One, and she shook her head. "Of all the places for this meeting to take place," she murmured, "why at Armory One, and why the day before Minerva launches?"

Kevin shrugged. "I suppose the Chairman is pretty busy; all of ZAFT's been buzzing about this for weeks, so I imagine he feels he should be here for it." He smiled to himself. "The Minerva... A fine ship, I'm sure, but I bet Dominion and the old gang could take her apart."

"Two years ago, you'd probably be right," she agreed. "Back when Dominion still existed, that is," she added dryly. "Kinda hard to fight a battle with scrap metal."

The Baron's face twitched imperceptibly at that, and Leona wondered why. How could Dominion's decommissioning be a sore subject? she wondered. He didn't seem to have a problem when she was scrapped...

Kevin's thoughts were rather more on the tense side. If Cagalli ever finds out what I've been up to, he thought grimly, she's not going to be happy with me. But I had no choice; this war isn't over. I can feel it...

The quartet shortly arrived at Dullindal's office, where the Chairman himself awaited. "Welcome, Representative Athha," he greeted, standing from behind his desk. "I'm honored you came all the way up here to speak with me."

Cagalli nodded. "Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Chairman." Whatever her problems with the man's policy, she knew -rather better than Kevin- that appearances had to be maintained.

Dullindal swept his gaze over her bodyguards, and nodded to himself. That's Leona Colde, I see... Hm; defected after Patrick made the mistake of trying to destroy Earth. That blue-haired fellow must be… Athrun Zala... and the last...

He raised an eyebrow. "Interesting mask," he remarked. "Most people don't choose to hide their faces that way, Baron; especially not nobles like yourself. May I ask why you wear it?"

"Nasty scar," Kevin lied smoothly, "received during the war. I was piloting a mobile suit that got a little too close to a Peacemaker Force mobile armor when it -and its payload- was destroyed. I was far enough away not to explode outright... but still too close for safety." It was a plausible enough lie; and besides, he had been a little too close to a nuke at Jachin Due...

Dullindal nodded. "I see. That's understandable; I suppose it's hard to get things done if your face frightens children." He turned to Cagalli. "So, what can I do for you? I imagine you didn't come all the way to Armory One simply to see our new warship."

"Actually," she told him, "that is part of why we're here. Specifically... why are you using Orb's technology for something like this? The war is over, Mr. Chairman; it has been since the Four Ships Alliance forced a truce at Jachin, two years ago."

He sighed. "Lady Cagalli, despite what it may look like, ZAFT is not preparing to engage in another war. These are simply defensive measures. If you want peace, after all, you must have the power to defend yourselves from those who might break that peace."

"But with this much power, you're practically inviting someone to attack you," she protested. "It makes you look like a threat..."

Kevin shot her a look; this was, regrettably, a matter in which they differed. "Sic Vis Pacem, Para Bellum," he quoted, nodding at the Chairman. "If you want peace, you must prepare for war. It wasn't Orb's weapons that caused the Alliance to attack us, two years ago," he reminded Cagalli. "It was our mass driver; and without the military power your father carefully built up, we would never have held out long enough to deny the Earth Forces their prize."

She frowned at him, but Dullindal nodded. "I see you understand, Baron. In fact, that's the sort of thing I'd have expected a comrade of yours to say. Commander -excuse me, Captain Kevin Walker was of much the same opinion as you."

Kevin controlled his expression carefully, grateful for his mask. "You knew the man, Chairman?"

"Yes," Dullindal acknowledged. "A long time ago now; over half a decade. I wish he was with us now; ZAFT could use a man like him."

Behind the mask, the Baron's eyes froze; behind him, Leona wondered uneasily if the remark would cause an explosion.

Athrun had similar fears; he knew full well that his friend did not like being reminded of his past, even by someone who didn't realize who he was talking to...

But their worries were unfounded. "I'm afraid, Chairman," Kevin said quietly, "that even if Captain Walker were still alive, he wouldn't return to ZAFT. I'm sure you recall the circumstances of his... precipitous departure from the organization."

Dullindal nodded regretfully. "Yes, I know; and it's certainly true that my predecessor should've kept a tighter leash on Commander Harris. Though Captain Walker's actions were... regrettable, they were also understandable. There are still some in ZAFT who harbor resentment -even hatred- for his memory, but those who know the truth of the Project have a more enlightened viewpoint."

Yeah, and I can believe as much of that as I want, Kevin thought cynically. But I suppose there's some truth in it; no one outside the Project had any idea of the methods that crazy bastard used to create me... and mold me into the perfectly-loyal soldier he wanted.

"Well," the Chairman continued, "that's neither here nor there. May I suggest we tour the base as we continue our discussion? I'm sure you'll find it most illuminating."

Athrun looked at him suspiciously, but said nothing; it was entirely possible Dullindal might recognize his voice, if he hadn't already recognized his face, so it would be better to be cautious.

Leona, on the other hand, had no such problems. "Why would you be so free with information?" she questioned. "Isn't that all classified?"

Dullindal shrugged. "The new ship and mobile suits will be unveiled tomorrow anyway... and I doubt any of you are spies for the Earth Alliance. Besides, we have nothing to hide."

"All right, we're in." The two "ZAFT" operatives, along with the three infiltrators, were now in a small warehouse, with several crates lying about; already present were a large number of soldiers in black commando fatigues. "There are weapons here; make good use of them."

Auel raised an eyebrow, and popped open one of the crates. "I see... These should do nicely." Reaching in, he withdrew a pouch of knives, which he tossed to Stellar. "Make good use of them," he suggested. "If you run into the good Baron, it might be kinda fitting."

She nodded absently, while Sting dug in another box. "Assault rifles, grenades... Yeah, this should do." He turned to the soldiers who had smuggled them in. "So, what are our objectives? We got a general outline before we left, but nothing more than that; and pre-mission intelligence always leaves things out."

"Your targets are the new ZAFT mobile suits codenamed Gaia, Chaos, and Abyss," a soldier answered. "Your mission is simple: retrieve them, and destroy as much of the surrounding area as needed. The resulting chaos would be useful for your escape."

Auel nodded. "And what about those guys?" he asked, pointing at the commandos.

"Their mission is to take out one of Representative Athha's bodyguards." The soldier shrugged. "Beats me why he's a target, but your Captain Roanoke seems to think Baron Onishi is a series threat. Anyway, that's not your concern; though if you do see him, feel free to take him down."

"Understood," Stellar chimed in, suddenly looking deadly-serious. "Begin operation."

"You've been busy, the last couple years," Kevin remarked, looking over the lines of mobile suits they passed. "Building replacements for the units lost at Jachin Due?"

"Partially," Dullindal agreed; he didn't find the notion of a "bodyguard" discussing policy as odd as he might've since Kevin was also an important government figure himself. "We also need to keep up with the new technologies; hence the Minerva, and the new models we're rolling out tomorrow."

"But why?" Cagalli wondered. "There isn't a war going on right now, you know."

"True," he conceded, "but people are people, Lady Cagalli. There will never be an end to human conflict, so we must always be prepared."

Kevin nodded. "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." As they passed an observation window into another hangar, he paused. "Hmm? Isn't that...?"

Dullindal glanced at the machine the Baron was looking at. It had the distinctive head and general frame of a "Gundam"-style unit, like the war's G-weapons, as well as two wings, and a pair of unusual rifles...

"Yes, Baron," he acknowledged. "That is what it looks like. As you probably know, Kevin Walker's MBF-M1000 Sturm Falke was briefly in our possession during the war. We didn't have time to analyze it as thoroughly as we might've preferred, but we were able to duplicate many of its features." He nodded at the machine. "That's the single prototype of the Sturm Vogels, a mass-produced version of the Stormhawk. Somewhat simplified, it lacks the original's transformation capabilities, and its rifles are far less powerful, even in combined form, than the buster rifles. Also, it omits the Zero system; we attempted to duplicate it, but something went wrong, and nearly drove the test pilot insane."

"Nothing went wrong," Cagalli informed him dryly. "It's just that only a few pilots can use it; or so I hear."

Kevin gazed at the machine. "Even if it's inferior to Stormhawk," he murmured, "the Sturm Vogel must be a formidable weapon itself."

"It is," Dullindal agreed. "But even without the Zero system, it takes an extraordinary pilot to keep up with it. It's so maneuverable that only a handful of those tested could handle it, and there simply weren't enough to justify mass-production."

The baron nodded to himself. "I see."

He sounded strangely preoccupied, causing the Chairman to glance at him. "Is something wrong, Baron?"

Kevin ran a hand through his sandy hair. "I'm... not sure," he said slowly. "Something... doesn't feel right..." He opened his mind, "tasting" the area with his empathic senses... and stiffened. "Something's wrong," he said, certainty in his voice. "Someone just died out there-"

An alarm split the air. "Alert! Alert! Intruder alarm in Mobile Suit Hangar Six!"

ZAFT soldiers immediately entered the corridor, and Dullindal nodded to them. "I don't know what's going on," he told them, "but get the Representative and her bodyguards out of here. Get them to the Minerva, if you can!"

"Yes, sir!"

"What's going on?" Cagalli demanded. "Why the alarm?"

Kevin quickly moved to the front as they hurried outside. "I'm not sure," he answered, still sensing the situation. "But in one of the hangars -I think the one where the new mobile suits are- a lot of people just got killed. This is some kind of commando raid..." He cursed. "Shades of Heliopolis..."

Athrun and Leona drew sidearms. "Now what?" Leona wondered. "What do we do now?"

"We get out of here, Miss-" one of the soldiers started, as the exited the building; his words were cut off by a hail of bullets that slammed into his face.

Kevin's eyes widened; there were dozens of black-clad commandos heading right at them, firing... and he sensed... No, he realized. Cagalli isn't the target... and neither is the Chairman...

He flung himself in front of Cagalli. "Get out of here!" he ordered, an unusual bite of command in his voice. "Get her to safety!"

She grabbed his arm. "I can't leave you-"

"Yes, you can!" He glanced at Athrun and Leona, even as soldiers around them began to fall. "You two, get her out of here! I have to lead them off."

Athrun shook his head. "Wait a minute, what about-"

"Shut up and listen to me!" Kevin hissed. "Cagalli isn't their target; I am! The safest thing for her is for me to stay away." He grunted suddenly, as a bullet struck him in the chest. "Go!"

"But-" Cagalli tried to get to him, struggling in Athrun's sudden grip.

"He'll be fine," the blue-haired bodyguard told her. "Now we have to get out of here!"

"Be careful, Kevin," Leona told the baron. "Don't get yourself killed out there."

"Not a chance," Kevin sold coldly. "There's a reason people say... that I can make the unsurvivable survivable." His hands darted behind his back, and whipped out a pair of revolvers. "All right, you bastards!" he shouted to the advancing soldiers. "Let's dance!"

"I can't believe we left him behind," Cagalli whispered, as Athrun practically dragged her away. "How could we...?"

"Because he told us to," he replied, wincing as something exploded nearby. "Remember: nothing is more important to him than you are," he went on. "And it's Kevin, right? He'll be fine."

"Which may be more than can be said for us," Leona remarked, skidding to a stop. "Because I think that is in a bad mood."

Athrun looked up... and saw that that was a black mobile suit, beam rifle in hand, blasting a DINN out of the air. One of ZAFT's new models, obviously... and, just as obviously, it had been taken over by the attackers. "This isn't good," he muttered. "We can't fight something that big; the only man-portable weapon with any hope of harming that is Kevin's old plasma rifle..."

Cagalli groaned. "Now what?"

The mobile suit- it had to be the Gaia- turned its weapons against another hangar... and Athrun's eyes lit up, seeing a new ZAFT ZAKU machine tumble to the ground through the hole, upended but essentially intact. "Come on!" he called, and ran for it, Cagalli and Leona in his wake. "If we can get this up and running," he said, opening its hatch, "we can at least fight back."

"It's been two years since any of us last flew a mobile suit..." Cagalli began.

"I may be rusty," Athrun admitted, "but it's better than sitting around out there, waiting to get squished, isn't it?"

"You know," Leona murmured, "I think he has a point."

To the attackers, it must've appeared ridiculous. One man, wearing ceremonial body armor and carrying naught but a pair of antique revolvers, standing against a full platoon of soldiers. The odds against the man's survival seemed astronomical.

Those soldiers had no idea how close they came to being utterly annihilated.

As soon as the first shot was fired, and bounced off the armor -it might appear ceremonial, but it was in fact a highly-advanced, light-weight alloy, fully capable of stopping bullets- automatic commands had surged through Kevin's mind, and he gritted his teeth as he squashed them. No! I will not allow that to activate! Now is not the time!

His cybernetic augmentation, long dormant, was attempting to activate itself, following automatic protocols which called for self-activation in the case of a combat situation such as this.

But he'd deactivated that cursed machinery two years before, and he wouldn't allow it to come alive today. Too dangerous... can't reveal yet that Kevin Walker still exists...

So instead, Kevin relied on old-fashioned technology and reflexes born of extreme genetic engineering.

He threw himself to one side, dodging a burst of automatic fire aimed for his head. "You want some of this?" he called, raising his revolvers. "Then come and get it, you bastards!"

His twin guns barked, spitting bullet after bullet, as fast as he could cock and fire the single-action weapons. Behind his mask, his right eye was glowing red, functioning in targeting mode; and soldiers began to fall. Coming to his feet, Kevin cartwheeled sideways, still firing, and a man fell with a bullet through his nose. To his left and right, his fellows dropped...


Kevin froze for an instant, hearing that dreaded sound. He'd long known the problems with his chosen weapons, of course... but he'd never expected to face anything twelve hollowpoint bullets couldn't handle. Now he had... and a Colt Single Action Army took far too long to reload in the heat of battle.

Seeing their target clearly out of ammunition, the attacking soldiers grew bolder, advancing on him and firing aimed shots. There were still over thirty of them -without his augmentation online, some of Kevin's shots had actually missed- which meant they had a considerable advantage in numbers.

A grenade landed a meter to Kevin's right. The baron's genetically-enhanced perceptions noted it, and his genetically-enhanced reflexes catapulted him away from it... but it wasn't quite fast enough. The explosive blew, and while most of it had little effect, fragments of it ripped into his right hand, shredding the glove and the flesh beneath... and a glint of metal showed.

He bared his teeth in a snarl. "Enough playtime," he hissed. "You wanna play hardball? I'll show you what tough is like!"

Heedless of the insane odds against him, Kevin hurled himself into the mass of troops. He knew he couldn't survive, even with his armor and his genetically-engineered body... but he was determined to take as many of them down with him as he could.

The sheer surprise of his rush bought him some time, as commandos realized they couldn't shoot him without hitting each other. In the time it took them to draw knives, the Baron was among them... and the fruits of long practice in Xin-yi kung fu showed. His fists lashed out, again and again... and wherever his right hand, the metal hand, touched, there was a flash of blue, and the man he hit would drop, twitching as though charged with electricity.

Standing atop one of the hangars, a figure in black battle armor, one hand hidden by a cannon-like device, watched the confrontation. This is absolute chaos, the figure thought. This is an Earth Forces attack, obviously; and they appear to have realized Kevin is their greatest threat, whether they know why or not. The figure snorted inside the helmet. The ZAFT I knew would never have been taken by surprise like this. And if Arkanian were still around... these idiots would be in for a world of hurt. As it is... Kevin seems to be causing them some problems.

Of course, the battle-armored warrior realized that, under the circumstances, Kevin wouldn't be alive much longer... and that couldn't be allowed.

Time to see if this gadget actually works as advertised.

The right arm, with the weapon on the end, came up... and inside it, a finger pulled a trigger.

A knife slash to the synthetic half of his face saved Kevin's life... much as the unknown shooter had planned. Just as he was recoiling, a streak of blue light flashed past, striking the knife-wielder in the face and effectively vaporizing his head.

Particle beam weapon-! Kevin hurled himself backwards, out of the mass of troops, just as more blasts of energy rained down, cutting down the enemy in droves. In moments, only one was left standing, and that one not for very long. The figure in black armor landed right in front of him, stared coldly through an opaque visor, and shot him in the face.

Kevin had landed in a crouch, and now he held a new weapon in his hand, produced from under his armor. Visually, it looked identical to his now-empty revolvers... but the circuitry built into told of something far different. "Who are you?" he demanded hoarsely, when the figure turned to face him. "Why- Son of a-!"

He knew that battle armor, just as he knew the weapon attached to the right forearm. He also knew... that it couldn't possibly exist.

"Neither enemy nor friend," he/she replied, voice clearly synthesized. "Merely one who dislikes the Earth Forces as much as you do... and one who thinks the world is a better place with Orb's Chief Representative and her bodyguard still alive."

Earth Forces... Somehow I'm not surprised. Still... "You expect me to believe that you're 'neither enemy nor friend'?" Kevin asked harshly. "That's a Destroyer battlesuit you're wearing, with a Mark I Particle Beam Weapon... and only those with neural receptors can even get one of those suits to move. Since the capability to construct those receptors -let alone to implant them- was lost five years ago, you're a survivor of ABADDON. And I highly doubt any survivor of ABADDON would truly be interested in helping me, after what happened there." His eyes narrowed behind the mask. "So which is it? That you, Arkanian? No, can't be; she always liked knives. That suit isn't Delta's style at all..."

The figure shrugged. "If you must put a name to me, you may call me Hyperion," the soldier said easily. "And, as I told you, I mean you no harm."

"Expect me to believe that garbage?" Kevin's finger tightened on the trigger. "You know who I am, you must remember me... you must remember what happened at the lab, when I blew us all away with that nuke."

"Hyperion" seemed to sigh; or so Kevin judged from the body language. "There are some who understand what happened that day, Kevin," the armored soldier said wearily. "There are some who know what Commander Jeffrey Harris, codename Oracle, did to you. What happened to us was not your fault."

"So what are you doing here today?" the Baron demanded. "And how did you get in, for that matter? The security here isn't exactly light."

Hyperion shrugged. "To answer your second question first, let's just say that certain command codes have never been purged from ZAFT computers. As to the first... I simply received word that the Earth Forces were planning an attack today, and that one Baron Onishi would also be here. So, I made arrangements." The soldier turned away. "However, it appears my mission here is done. Till next time, Commander."

The armored figure jumped away, and Kevin instinctively pulled the trigger on his weapon, sending a streak of azure light through the space Hyperion had occupied a moment earlier.

Then he lowered the weapon, tucked it away, and sagged. "Nichevo... If he'd been of a mind to kill me, I'd be dead right now..."

It was a sobering experience; Kevin was not used to facing something he was physically-incapable of taking on... but someone with a Destroyer battlesuit -and a more advanced model than what he was used to, no less- was something he couldn't have defeated hand-to-hand even with his own augmentation online...

He shook himself. Now was not the time to worry about the ghosts of his past. He had to find Cagalli, Athrun, and Leona... and hope that they were safe.

Kevin got to his feet, and ran into one of the flaming hangars.

Kira Yamato was confused by the situation he found himself in. He seemed to be under attack, by what looked like Earth Forces personnel. But what was he doing in this place? He seemed to be somewhere in the PLANTs... which didn't make sense.

He sensed his danger, though, when his hands darted behind his back, snatched out a pair of Colt Single Action Army .45 Long Colt revolvers, and fired a blindingly-fast shot into the first man's face, shattering his faceplate and his nose... along with the skull behind it. Then he turned, fired again, and took this man in the heart.

Oddly, Kira felt exhilarated, as though he were enjoying the sudden eruption of violence. Every cell in his body was aching for a fight, he realized, leaping sideways with more power in his legs than he remembered having. He cartwheeled, coat whirling about him, and took a bullet to the chest. But the armor he wore wasn't the decorative ornamentation most people assumed; it was instead an advanced body armor, capable of withstanding far more than that.

He shouted something he didn't quite make out, and turned to see... Cagalli, Athrun and Leona Colde?

Kira sat bolt upright in his bed, realizing it had all been a dream... or had it? Closing his eyes again, he concentrated on the images before his mind's eye... and realized whatever he'd been seeing in his sleep was still going on.

He finally understood. It wasn't a dream... it was a telepathic sending, slightly distorted by his subconscious, from Kevin. His friend probably didn't even realize he was doing it, but it gave Kira a perfect view of what was clearly a disaster in progress.

He stumbled out of his bed, and made his way outside the Onishi Mansion, to the beach down below. Gazing up at the night sky, he wondered what was going on up there... what could've gone wrong. It was supposed to be a peaceful, diplomatic mission, a routine meeting with Chairman Dullindal. They hadn't been expecting trouble.

Now Kira knew they'd been wrong, and he felt despair, realizing that everything they'd fought for, two years ago, was in danger of being lost again. Even as Kevin Onishi wove his deadly dance at Armory One, others must be in the midst of preparing for war...

He was oblivious to the world around him, immersed in Kevin's thoughts, feelings, and experiences, when he felt a hand on his shoulder. "Kira?" Lacus Clyne said softly, concerned; she'd seen him leave, and followed him to see what was wrong. "What is it?"

"Something's gone wrong up there," Kira whispered. "Kevin's fighting, in the PLANTs; someplace called Armory One. I don't know what it is, but he's shooting people right now."

She gasped. "What could've happened?"

"I don't know." He concentrated on the images, trying to understand what was happening. "I think they're Earth Forces; or at least Kevin seems to think so. Some kind of raid..." He looked at her. "It's like Heliopolis, all over again..."

Lacus swallowed. "How are those three doing?"

"I think they're fine, for now; Athrun and Cagalli don't seem to be hurt, anyway. And Kevin..." Kira shrugged. "He's having fun."

She tilted her head, almost as concerned by that as by the news of the attack itself. "How can he be having fun at a time like this...?"

"Don't blame him, Lacus; you know as well as I do what he's been going through since the war. Peace... isn't what he was meant for." He slowly shook his head. "Kevin doesn't enjoy killing... but fighting is what he was meant to do. He's spent almost half his life on the battlefield, and... I think it frustrates him, being in peacetime so long. He doesn't like to kill, but he does like to fight. It's..." He shrugged helplessly. "It's a part of him, of how he's built."

Lacus nodded sadly. "You're right, I know... I wish it wasn't so, but you're right." She gazed up at the stars, as though trying to see the battle for herself. "But at least we know that Cagalli and Athrun are in good hands..."

"Has he activated his augmentation?" Murrue Ramius asked, coming up behind them; she, too, had noticed Kira's departure, and overheard part of their conversation.

Kira shook his head. "No, he hasn't; but then, I don't think he has to. He is shooting people, though." He frowned. "I didn't know Kevin still carried a gun."

"I did," Archangel's old Captain informed him. "Last year, I noticed his extra pair of Colts was missing, and asked him about it." She shrugged. "Once a gunfighter, always a gunfighter..."

"Just as long as he's careful..." Lacus whispered.

"Why does the phrase, 'out of the frying pan into the fire', just leap to mind?" Leona wondered. She was wedged behind and to the right of the pilot's seat in the ZAKU Athrun had commandeered.

"Maybe," Cagalli replied tightly from the left, "because we're in a lightly-armed mobile suit against a new generation of G-weapon."

Athrun said nothing. His whole attention was focused on the enemy in front of him. I wish Kevin were here, he thought unhappily, cautiously advancing on the Gaia. He'd know how to handle this; if nothing else, he could tell when that pilot intended to fire...

In the Gaia's cockpit, Stellar looked at the ZAKU curiously. "You won't get in my way." She charged at the machine, beam rifle spitting emerald darts.

Athrun grunted, sidestepped, and smashed the ZAKU's shoulder into the Gaia. The black machine, of course, had Phase-shift armor, and took no damage... but the blow was enough to knock the beam rifle flying. "Try that," he muttered.

Stellar glared. "You'll pay for that!" Her machine drew a beam saber... while one of her fellows approached the ZAKU from behind.

"Take this!" Sting shouted, using his purloined Chaos to cleave Athrun's ZAKU's left arm off with a saber of his own.

Cagalli winced. "Now what?"

"We're not done for yet." Athrun knew at least a certain amount about the new ZAKUs, and so knew to draw the machine's beam tomahawk to parry Gaia's saber. "Still... this could get ugly." Where is Kevin and his precognitive machine when you need him?

The situation was less than ideal. The three of them, in a single, mass-produced mobile suit, were facing both the Gaia and the Chaos, two top-of-the-line prototypes... and the Abyss was surely around somewhere, as well. Add to that the fact that Athrun hadn't flown a mobile suit since the Battle of Jachin Due, two years earlier...

Then a missile barrage struck Sting's machine from behind, and Athrun's head came around. "What the-"

Shinn Asuka, piloting the Core Splendor section of the ZGMF-X56S Impulse, flew into the center-stage of the impromptu battlefield. Hovering there, the torso, legs, and Silhouette pack for his machine drew together with the Core Splendor, forming a complete mobile suit... one which was swiftly holding a pair of large antiship swords, reminiscent of the GAT-X105 Sword Strike's Schwerht Gewehr.

Athrun was suitably impressed... not to mention relieved.

The Impulse snapped its blades together, to form an even larger sword. "Are you people trying to start another war?" Shinn demanded. "Because if you are... bring it on!"

Author's note: After two years on the sidelines, Kevin Onishi, alias Kevin Walker, returns to the battlefield. Soon, he must face his past… once and for all.

Okay, after six months, Kevin Walker's second story has finally begun. As I mentioned in the notes for the latest chapter of Birds of a Feather, I've heard that Destiny might not be airing in America for a few more months yet… so I've decided not to wait for it. It means I have to work via episode synopses, but, given the changes Kevin's presence will be causing anyway, I think it'll work.

Well, let me know how the first chapter was; it might be a couple weeks before the next update (until I finish Birds of a Feather, my work will be divided between the two stories). -Solid Shark